On Monday, November 13, 2023, the Washington State Supreme Court formally accepted a stipulation agreement between the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Benton County District Court Judge Terry M. Tanner over his second DUI arrest. As part of the deal, Judge Tanner was censured and ordered suspended without pay for 30 days.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge Terry M. Tanner,” with case number 202148-4.
According to the filing, Judge Tanner agreed that he violated Canon 1, Rules 1.1 and 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Rule 1.1 requires judges to comply with the law. Rule 1.2 requires judges to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety.
The stipulation stemmed from Tanner’s arrest on January 2, 2023, in Richland for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police responded to reports of a vehicle stuck and found Tanner in the driver’s seat with the engine running. His blood alcohol level was measured at 0.222 and 0.232.
This marked Tanner’s second DUI offense, as he was previously arrested and reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Commission in 2018 for a separate DUI incident. In that case, he received a formal written reprimand after pleading guilty and completing the terms of his probation.
In the latest case, Tanner self-reported the arrest to the commission and voluntarily entered a 25-day inpatient substance use treatment program on January 5, 2023. On February 28, 2023, he received a deferred prosecution that required ongoing treatment, probation monitoring, and abstinence from alcohol for 5 years.
If he fulfills these terms, the DUI charge will be dismissed. However, the Judicial Conduct Commission still pursued formal sanctions due to the seriousness of a judge committing multiple drunk driving offenses. Tanner stipulated to a censure and 30-day suspension without pay.
The Supreme Court formally accepted this deal in an order issued on November 13. In addition to the censure and suspension, Tanner must comply with all terms of his criminal case and treatment plan. He is also required to submit to random alcohol tests, recuse himself from any DUI case, abstain from alcohol, and make public presentations on his misconduct.
As part of the agreement, Tanner waived his right to contest the disciplinary action. With this Supreme Court order, his 30-day suspension without pay will take effect within 7 days, removing him from the bench pending compliance with all stipulated terms. The Judicial Conduct Commission and court took this step to restore public trust in the impartiality of the justice system.
Judge Terry Tanner began his legal career at the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office. He later served as a Prosecutor for Richland and Pasco and became a District Court Judge in 2009. He obtained his Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1988 and completed his undergraduate studies in Business Administration at the University of Washington.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.